Getting Back to Basics in 2015

2014 was a brilliant year for Hanna Somatics. Thank you to all those around the world – from Australia to Calgary, the UK, Norway, Germany, and the US – who supported me in my teaching and trainings. Thankfully, the word “somatic” is no longer foreign to most people’s ears.

New, more somatic, and exploratory movement disciplines are becoming more popular. Yoga teachers, Pilates teachers, personal trainers, massage therapists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths are teaching Somatic Exercises as a complement to their primary practice.

The people I taught around the world this past year are thirsting for a somatic approach to pain relief and mindful, life long movement. They understand that the body, which for many is the source of unhappiness, can be our own powerful “canary in the mineshaft” that signals an imbalance – in all areas of our lives. One of the safest gateways to “re-membering” who you are, what you want and what is basic to your quality of life is through your own somatic experience: your body.

Many turn away from the slow, mindful somatic exercises as “too boring” or “too slow.” I understand that. Yet when it comes to learning to master movement, slow is the new fast.

We run marathons, but we cannot breathe into our bellies or swing our hips. We cannot move slowly, but we strive to do 100 sit-ups as fast as we can. We have back pain, but rush around taking care of others with no time for ourselves. We don’t see that our emotions and lifestyle have a profound impact on our muscle tension and level of happiness. There’s a disconnect here that, over time, will translate into a “what happened to me?!” experience that just may be your wake up call.

Enter “the basics.”

I love Dan John’s blog post, Going From Point A To Point B. His advice may be geared towards strength training, yet it is a life lesson that, to my ears, is purely somatic: if you want to get to Point B (the Olympics, Super Bowl, weight loss) you need to know where Point A is. Once you know where Point A is you can map out a direct line to your goal. Point A, from my perspective as a Somatic Educator is what it feels like to be in your body – right now, today. But there’s more…

The Basics

A free and easy walk. If your goal is to run a marathon, but your pelvis is rigiIMG_7079d, your legs don’t swing easily and you “clunk” when you walk… you need to learn to walk freely. The is the quintessential human movement. We want to be able to walk – unaided – well into old age.

Pandiculate often! If you still stretch, learn to pandiculate. Cats and dogs pandiculate up to 40 times a day. Pandiculation restores full muscle function and length. Just slowly lengthen out your limbs, as if you were just waking up from a nap.

The ability to hike your hips up and down (like a slow salsa). If you don’t know where your waist muscles are and can’t isolate them one at a time, it’s time to learn. Hips and a pelvis that move up, down, forward and back contribute to fluid walking.

The ability to move your shoulders in opposition to your hips (think shoulder shimmies). Do your shoulders move in gentle opposition to your hips when you walk or do you walk like a refrigerator, solid as a block with no movement in the center, swaying back and forth? If yes, then this is why you might be losing your balance. If your shoulders are stiff, your hips will be stiff. They’re connected. That’s basic.

The ability to twist through the torso. If you walk stiffly (see above) and can’t remember IMG_1769the last time you twisted your upper body in opposition to your lower body, it’s time to regain that skill. Your spine needs to be able to twist to help you walk freely.

Sadly, many people have completely lost connection with a sense of what it feels like to be in their bodies. For them Point A is taking the time to learn to sense yourself. Take all the time you need because what you cannot sense you cannot control. This applies to your body, your life, your choices and your dreams. Change comes first through awareness, then patient, persistent and fun practice.

All these basic movement skills can be learned through Somatic Exercises.

Click here for Pain-Free and Move Without Pain DVDs.

Click here to attend a class.

Click here to find a practitioner who can help you learn to move well in 2015.

How Movement Can Calm the Savage Beast

Several years ago I went on a 2-week trek with my older sister and my mother, who was 82-years-old at the time . There is no word in the dictionary that does justice to the experience of hiking in the Himalayas. I will just say that it was mind-expanding as well as detoxifying, mentally and physically. It was one of the most healthy and curative experiences I’ve ever had.

Movement + real food + clean air = good health

I had a feeling that two weeks without computers and cars would teach me something I hadn’t yet learned about my body and my own habitual reactions to stress. I got more than what I’d hoped for: after two weeks of challenging daily activity the likes of which I had not yet experienced in all my years of hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I found myself without any aches or pains (which I experience after too much computer time). I felt an inner calm that I am convinced could not have occurred without the strenuous daily hiking we undertook.

The benefits of movement are well documented, and yet the combination of pure food to nourish the body, and nothing other than stunning nature to nourish the mind can create an experience, both physical and mental, that serves as a detox of the mind and body as it calms the central nervous system. As we know from Hanna Somatics, everything we experience, mentally, emotionally and physically, is muscularly responded to in our bodies. The way in which we deal with our lives is reflected in our bodies, movement and posture. When we calm the mind and nervous system by feeding it pleasant stimulus and the entire body functions optimally. Our mental patterns may also begin to change.

I’m a very seasoned hiker, yet was still challenged by the level of difficulty of our trek into the Singalila Range of Sikkim.  We hiked slowly and steadily for 4-6 hours daily.There was no room for distraction; my awareness was focused intently on my body mechanics as we negotiated rocks, tree roots, mud and scree; and my breath and determination to get to the next rest spot. It was a moment-to-moment mindful meditation in motion. At the end of each day I felt invigorated, both physically and mentally. My head was clear, my body was strong. The challenge now is how to keep that level of calmness in suburban New Jersey as I dig into my work. I have to remind myself that real food, clean air, and vigorous outdoor movement is attainable whether you travel all the way to India or stick around your own backyard.